Eric Hudson, who has died at 94, a few days before he was due attend the 75th anniversary commemorations, was a veteran of Normandy who was awarded in 2015 France’s highest military medal, the Legion d’Honneur.
A familiar face around Bridlington for his work every year with the Royal British Legion poppy appeal, he had been written off for dead after the landing craft taking him and his comrades to Sword Beach was hit by fire from a German fighter plane.
He had been heading for Sword Beach, one of the five D-Day landing zones.
“On the way, we went to assist at Omaha beach but when we were between Utah and Omaha, a German plane came down, 4ft above the water and started rocking us with gunfire,” he recalled esarlier this year.
“We all took cover and nobody got hurt, but it came back again.
“We were drifting, the engine had stopped, we were taking on water and I knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere.”
Attempts were made to transfer his crew to another boat but when that became overcrowded, and knowing that many of the other men could not do do, he offered to swim to shore.
“It was 300 metres and the tide was going out. Every time I tried to swim, I was getting knocked off course,” he said.
“By the time I got to the beach, I was exhausted. I couldn’t walk out of the water so I crawled.
“And I knew I had put my hand on a trip wire. It went off. If I had been stood up, I would have lost my leg.”
As it was, he sustained gunshot wounds to his face, hand, chest and thigh.
“When I came round, I was in a Jeep and it was going like the devil,” he said.
“They operated on my face on the beach and I heard them say, ‘This fella’s a mess’.
“I thought I’d had it. I thought I was a goner when I heard them say, ‘I think you better get the padre to this one’.
“I thought, ‘Blimey, they have written me off’.”
Unable to speak, he was taken eventually to an American Army hospital back in Southampton and remained out of service for five months,
He did not return to Normandy until he was 90, when he went at the urging of a nephew.
“They said I was the only Englishman to be an honorary citizen of St Marie du Mont and Utah Beach,” he recalled.
“I was the only Englishman to land on an American beach – that’s why I was the only person to receive the medal.”
Bridlington’s mayor, Liam Dealtry, said: “What he did during the Second World War, none of us will be able to understand.
“He was a hero, like all of the other World War Two veterans in this town.”
Born in Leeds, Mr Hudson had married Jean at the parish church in Heckmondwike in 1948 and they moved to Bridlington in their later years.